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Wyboston Chapel

Wyboston seems to have been a reasonably sized settlement in the Middle Ages. It was not a parish in its own right, but part of Eaton Socon. However, it lay at some distance from that church or from those in Little Barford and Roxton. Moreover it stood on one of the most travelled roads in the kingdom, if not the most travelled, the Great North Road. All these circumstances suggest it was a good spot for a chapel of ease, in other words, a small place of worship under the control of a larger parish church.

Some evidence for this comes from Volume III of the Victoria County History for Bedfordshire, published in 1912. The compilers state: "In 1476 William Stokker, knight, John Stokker, citizen of London, and Henry Stokker, inhabitant of Wyboston, received a licence to found a perpetual chantry of one chaplain to celebrate divine service in a certain chapel dedicated to Saint Mary, Saint James and Saint Christopher (the favourite saints of each of the Stokkers?) which they had recently built".

A chantry was an institution for saying prayers for the dead, which, medieval theology asserted, would shorten their stay in the painful limbo between Heaven and Hell which was known as Purgatory - a place where your sins were purged ready for you to enter Heaven. As the extract shows this chantry was to be based in a recently built chapel, which sounds like a chapel of ease.

King Henry VIII (1509-1547) dissolved not just the monasteries but all religious houses in England other than places for the worship of the local population. Chantries were included in this dissolution and the one in Wyboston was worth £7 per annum. The Victoria County History goes on: "It was declared to be in Wyboston, 'a thoroughfare one mile from the parish church [presumably the one in Eaton Socon], and to be frequently used in winter by the parishioners of Chawston, who 'by occasion of waters' [presumably the flooding of South Brook] were unable to get to their own church [in Roxton]. The ornaments included 'one chalice gylte within the cuppe' and a bell. On the dissolution of the chantries William Smith and Peter Grey received a grant of Wyboston, but no trace of the ancient chapel exists at the present day".